A VIDEO by a talented Bahamian comedian circulated this week on social media.
The video by Latoya Dean showed a visit all too many Bahamians are familiar with – to the passport office.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” she is told in the skit, “you’re going to need your great great great great grandparents’ birth certificates.”
“But they’re dead,” she replies, “I don’t even know their names!”
It’s done for comedic effect of course – but the series of ever-changing requirements when you arrive to apply for your passport is too close for comfort to the real-life experience. You have to laugh, or else you’ll cry.
We suspect tears are closer to the mark for many who have had to face the disorganisation, long lines and hourslong waits at the office recently.
There are stories of waiting times of more than eight hours and one woman yesterday told The Tribune that she was on her fourth day at the Passport Office, arriving as early as 3am in the hope of getting served. She talked of people being put ahead in the queue because they weren’t served from the day before, and people queuing for hours only to be turned away because they’re told the staff can’t serve any more than are already in line.
Another woman shared her safety fears over people queuing outside the office at 4am with no security in sight – “people getting rob, people getting rape, and you gotta come out your bed at 4am with ya child to come get an early number to get a passport… that’s ridiculous”.
In a letter to the editor today, Pam Burnside recounts a similar experience – arriving at 7am, only to be told four hours later, at 11am, that no one else can be seen and should come back tomorrow. She also talks of seeing the mothers of first-time babies being called to be seen, having spent a long time themselves standing outside with their newborns in their arms.
A Tribune staff member also recalled last year queuing for hours to get the passport for his new-born, only to be told when he reached the counter that it had to be the mother who had to apply, not the father.
Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield is disingenuous in his response to concerns about problems at the office, saying of people who are sent away that “to put it that way would be unfair”.
We would imagine that if he were to queue for four or five hours only to be told he couldn’t be seen that day, it would feel very fair to say that he had been sent away.
He blames the amount of space at the office – which he says can only allow for a hundred a day – and mutters about looking at staffing issues, but come on, this is nothing new. We’ve had these problems with the Passport Office for years – they surely can’t be “looking at” staffing issues now, why hasn’t this been resolved beforehand?
Imagine how this situation must be for people visiting from the Family Islands whose planes won’t arrive until after the queues have formed – and the extra expense they must face if they’ve had to come to Nassau and factor in staying overnight just to get seen.
The whole system needs a drastic overhaul – online applications, an appointments system, extra staff training to ensure consistency instead of
ever-changing requirements, electronic record keeping to save people from having to resubmit the same documents or queue again at the Registry Office to get extra copies and please, please, an end to people having to queue for eight hours just to get their documents sorted out.
People deserve better – and this mess has been going on long enough.
WE NOTE with weariness that once again the PLP has decided to walk out of Parliament – this time to protest the lack of debate over the mid-year budget.
The party might have a point about the country deserving a debate – but this political gimmick is getting old, and if the PLP keeps doing this, we might suggest they fit a revolving door on the House of Parliament.